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Montana "no info" ethic. Thoughts?

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bttrrtRock Charles · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 5

What are the pros and cons of the Montana "no info" / "non-publish" ethics. Agree? Disagree? Stories?

What is more important; being the only one out there and hiding climbing areas from the feds or recording history.

It seems like the tides are turning as would be expected with out of staters sticking around, social media, blogs, forums etc. but places like the Bitterroot it seems like tensions are high as indicated here:…

The author seems to be saying that low impact and low use climbing is the key to sustaining climbing on public land in the face of user conflict and that keeping the sport dangerous is the best way to accomplish this.

The bolts at the parking lot wall are too old to be trusted and the falls too long for most. The result? Just as he said. the area is rarely used. It seems this may be ethically troubling too. Why install "permanent" anchors if they will see little use. No one wants to "scar" the rock but the experience of climbing is rich and fulfilling for individuals and communities, and so we (the majority) bolt or enjoy bolted routes and crags.


Brandon Alke · · Helena MT. · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 10

I say leave the areas as they are. Maybe replace some bolts, do not add any. What's wrong with old school run-outs? If you're not confident enough to climb them, move on.

Brian in SLC · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Oct 2003 · Points: 20,852

Yeah, I dunno. I can kinda see both sides.

I'm born and raised in Missoula. Before I started climbing, I used to run into climbers in the Bitterroots (mid-70's).

Too funny...I have an old 70's Trailhead poster in my kitchen. Its a Dolack, signed...


Got to know the climbing in Montana in the years to follow. Came into the sport out of hiking, hunting, backpacking., I get back a time or two a year. Climb in off-the-radar places, on friends routes. Or we go explore for our own. No crowds. No litter. No fire rings. Quiet. Quality experience.

Interesting to climb without beta. Pick a line and go for it, or, not. Montana has a LOT of terrain. Some developed. Some with beta. The great routes leak out eventually. The rest stay sort of adventurous.

And, I'm not for adding more bolts to old routes. Replace the crappy hardware hole-for-hole, sure.

Plenty of rock to support different styles. If you're in wilderness, don't use a power drill. Other than that, put in some routes. Report 'em or not.

bttrrtRock Charles · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 5

I agree. I love exploring. I love solitude. I love adventure. I even enjoy dirty routes if the rock is reasonably sound. But let me throw a "hypothetical" out there. Say I find a great an easy access single pitch moderate trad crag. I climb a descent number of good routes on a number of formations and find no sign of previous climbing. That could be because no one has climbed the routes or it could be because the history was not recorded or shared. Who is to say?

If the no publish ethic is followed, then no one enjoys the climbs. Sure a few souls will "discover" the area too, but the folks that would love to have a moderate trad crag probably wont wander through the mountains looking to onsite dirty cracks with no rating.

If i throw in a few bolted anchors, maybe a bolt here and there turn X into pg13, I may be disgracing the history of the route.

I propose unrecorded history is not history at all. Agree? Disagree?

chanchito 17 · · blue van, on the highway to… · Joined Jan 2012 · Points: 437

If someone really wanted a moderate trad crag, they would go out and scrub dirty cracks. Or get used to climbing dirty cracks! If you need a chalk highlighted splitter, go to Indian Creek or squamish. The sad fact of today's climbers is that most actually need guide books and beta to do anything. The adventurous souls that used to make up this sport are outnumbered.

While I'm by no means an old, Wisened climber, I see lots of gym rat style climbers these days where I live. We have an incredible crag less than an hour from the city, with 70 meter splitters and old school sandbags. Its a dream! And one or two laps will clean the lichen and grass out where you need it. Most days, I've got the place to myself, except for the few parties being guided up the classic 5.7 that takes you to the top. All the gym rats are hanging at these shit sport climbing crags, where cracks have bolts just a little too close and every a greasy highlighted chalk fest. Where's the fun in having some guy yell at you where to put your feet?

Hats off to you Montana boys and girls, though I doubt you're reading this anyways.

Patrick Shyvers · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 10
Loganator wrote:The sad fact of today's climbers is that most actually need guide books and beta to do anything.
Aren't guide books, albeit hand-drawn ones, a pretty old tradition?

It would probably be a lot of fun to personally discover lots of lines all over the country, but that's pretty hard to do without dirtbagging.
CCChanceR Ronemus · · Bozeman, MT · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 130

I don't think these conflicts always need to be so polarizing. Montana has a lot of rock and plenty of room for development in both styles. Multiple ethics can exist simultaneously if not exactly in the same area, very close to one another.

Take a look at the backcountry ice climbing scene in Ouray - beginner and guide friendly routes equipped fully with rappel hardware exist on the "sunny side" of Camp Bird. These routes allow a good introduction to the sport under relatively safe conditions and draw beginner traffic away from the more serious areas. Just across the road, however, on the "dark side" is some of the most pucker-inducing roadside alpine in the states, developed under a very traditional ethic - ground-up, no bolts, minimal cleaning, minimal beta on most routes, ect.

If this dualism can exist in (one of?) the most crowded ice climbing areas in the US, I'm sure it can also exist in Montana with it's far greater resources, both in terms of land and rock climbing as opposed to ice climbing. Let Blodgett stay hard, but let the moderate developed crags flourish. A better place to learn will lead to better climbers and in turn more hard men pushing the bold traditionally developed lines.

bttrrtRock Charles · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 5

Thanks for the responses to bad there are no old crusty Bitterroot climbers on mountain project. I'd love to hear their input.

Petsfed · · Bay Area, CA · Joined Mar 2002 · Points: 990

My experience looking for better beta about Idaho ice climbing has led me to believe there's a fear that guidebooks will draw crowds, and then some out-of-towners will come scoop the best lines.

There is also the misperception even in this thread that climbing is either over-bolted, completely safe sport climbing, or a completely undeveloped, true wilderness experience.

highaltitudeflatulentexpulsion · · Colorado · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 35

In my experience, if an area is truly great, then nothing can keep the lid on it for long. Whether we're talking sport, trad, or bouldering, if it's consistently some of the best anywhere with great access then it will become a destination.

Lets use Escalante, CO and Indian Creek as an example. Both have parallel wingate cliffs. Both have similar access from the Front Range. Both have similar seasons. So why does Escalante have a few visitors and psyched locals while the creek reaches Burning Man proportions every spring and fall? Simply put, it's the routes. In IC they're close together, clean, and long. In Escalante they're far apart, silty, and a bit shorter. I dearly love both places but it's pretty obvious that it's not the guidebook keeping crowds from forming.

Back to Montana. I'm sure there is great climbing. I'm sure the locals think it's the best anywhere. I'm sure it's fine if you live there. Fact is, the "secrecy" helps perpetuate the myth that there is hidden world class climbing there.

Oooh, another fun analogy. Montana is the fat kid in elementary school who swore he was super strong and acted super tough. Funny, I never saw him get out of his chair.

slim · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2004 · Points: 1,107

it's really hard for me to take somebody seriously when they write guidebooks (climbing/bouldering/mountain biking) to an area and then whine when the area gets more traffic.... additionally when they are a professor of 'recreation management' at a university? i wish i knew how to add the little eyes-rolling emoji.

Colonel Mustard · · demoted again · Joined Sep 2005 · Points: 1,231

Isn't that crap under snow a good amount of time anyway?

And remember, kids, the raddest crag is the one that you claim is but you can't tell because it's secret! The only thing better is the world of imagination crag that doesn't exist except at nighty night times when you're a viking.

Back to Montana. I'm sure there is great climbing. I'm sure the locals think it's the best anywhere. I'm sure it's fine if you live there. Fact is, the "secrecy" helps perpetuate the myth that there is hidden world class climbing there.
- highaltitudeflatulentexpulsion

Exactly. Developer goggles. You may have had a world class time, that does not make it a world class climb.

ryanb · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2008 · Points: 85

Yes Montana is allways under snow, swarming with ticks, obscured by smoke, on fire or all of the above.

No one is claiming the bitterroots are ever going to be a stop on the California/Colorado/Utah/Squamish circuit. There are great climbs here but they are spread out over a few thousand square miles mixed in with the choss.

(Then I think the first edition of "Central Washington Bouldering" claimed leavenworth bouldering was too spread out to ever get popular...and I'd choose living here over living there).

The mill creek controversy show's some of the "locals" even get angry when a crag draws the Missoula crowds. (Missoula is 60ish minutes form the climbs in question).

I love that there are so many truly adventurous ground up routes here. But lots of them seem to be put up by people who have spent a time in other ranges with more beginner friendly culture. Yet no one cares to provide an easy path for the local high school and college kids to progress to the point they can tackle a runout grade IV.

I know i spent much of my college days pouring over the Beckey and Nelson guides to the cascades plotting my next adventure and running laps on routes like Classic Crack and the Great Northern Slab...

To me the level of silence is just short sighted and selfish. Without a documented history of climbing, an active user group and established relationships with rangers etc the forest service has no reason not to shut down access roads, log the shady bouldering spots and quarry trad crags. In fact all of these things are happening.

On the other hand the last time someone published an area one guy made a stink and got bolts banned in the whole canyon so it's kind of catch 22.

Andrew Whitmore · · Montana · Joined Jun 2010 · Points: 445

Sounds like the subject isn't Montana, rather the Bitterroots south of Missoula, MT. Lord knows there isn't a solid piece of rock anywhere else in the state.

J Q · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 50
Loganator wrote:If someone really wanted a moderate trad crag, go to Indian Creek or squamish .
In other words, if you want to climb be rich and have free time.

Loganator wrote: adventurous souls that used to make up this sport are outnumbered. .
So now your arguing for tyranny? Let us repress the masses for the sake of the enlightened few? Never has it been summed up so well.

Let us pray:

Lord, let us repress these masses of unwashed souls who long for something other than a television and a couch. Let us indoctrinate them in the ways of scary masochism to which our god subscribes and surly finds pleasure. Let those heretics who speak of sport climbing be slayed in a brimming fire of hell. Let us make Montana pure lord. AMEN.
Bill Czajkowski · · Albuquerque, NM · Joined Oct 2008 · Points: 30

Maybe if no one wants to go on record as owning it (FA) then perhaps it's up for grabs if you find it.

And apparently it's okay to replace a 1/4" bolt with a 3/8" one though, that's not a substantial change. You know, it's just for safety.

J J · · Sandy, UT · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 3,564

What about the AAJ reporting routes as vague as this for a location;

Classic Montana Ethics, not even a mountain is named.

Jason Todd · · Cody, WY · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 1,114

The “no info” ethic started in the 70’s when (then) modern ice tools came of age. This technological advancement happened right as a group of hardmen were descending on Bozeman and Missoula to enroll in school. Go Cats.

With the technology and balls in place, they went on a pretty righteous FA tear. Some of them spent their free time actually going to school and/ or partying, rather than draw up topos to distribute to others. Once the NE ridge of Peak Longfuckingwalkin was climbed it was possibly mentioned and talked about locally. Hearing that it was climbed, others would set their sights on other objectives. I think the “no info” ethic in this era is mostly attributable to having other things to do. Why record something you’ll never do again?

With all the plums ripe for picking, the competition was relentless. Perhaps at a Dirty Sox gathering it was suggested to enter into a “no info” agreement. Their meeting minutes are lost (by lost I mean they probably never existed) so this is just a theory. The anti AAC ethos of the Dirty Sox fits here. Luckily a few of the climbers took some notes. Jack Tackle was more diligent than most about keeping records and many of these climbs were published in Brunckhorst’s books in the 90’s.

With more climbers coming up the local routes were well known and the first guidebook for Bozeman came out in 1987. Dockins’ explains in the preface that “I entered into this project reluctantly, having been for years, and for no rational reason, in agreement with the nonpublication ethic that has evolved in Montana.” The primary fear amongst a minority of climbers was the inevitable influx of Euro’s and Californians once the climbing was published. Not really a concern, considering there aren’t any “destination” crags in the state.

In the ‘90s as the popularity of climbing exploded more guides came out for various areas and it was an accepted practice. The final seal of approval for disclosure happened when Alex Lowe started the “Book” at Barrel.

IMHO, the “nonpublication” ethic is largely dead. The information is sparse, “proceed up 12 pitches of 5th class climbing to a large ledge. Bivy. Follow ridge to headwall and climb final aid pitch to summit. Descend opposite ridge.”, but it is out there. Many many people however are putting up routes and not reporting them. There is no “duty to report”. It is kind of bummer coming across a piton or a rap sling where you were hoping there wasn’t one, but it doesn’t take away (too much) from the adventure.

Feel free to publish a route, someone will probably chime in with the FA. Or not. It’s mostly choss anyway.

Jimmy Downhillinthesnow · · Bozeman, MT/Portland, ME · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 10
ryanb wrote:Yes Montana is allways under snow, swarming with ticks, obscured by smoke, on fire or all of the above.
I've even seen flaming ticks falling out of the smoke-obscured sky!
CCChanceR Ronemus · · Bozeman, MT · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 130

Great post Jason! I really like the set-up we've got currently in the Bozo area. Well documented and easily accessible "cragging/training areas" like Hyalite and Gallatin and obscure and adventuresome climbing elsewhere, especially the alpine choss-a-neering.

Ryan Marsters · · Golden, CO · Joined Jan 2011 · Points: 1,391

Somewhat timely thread as I'm giving serious consideration to a job offer in Bozeman. As a lover of obscure year round alpine climbing and scrambling with a weekend warrior schedule, will I find that lacking within a few hours of Bozeman? I know the crags are well documented but I don't know much else. I do know Colorado and Utah have amazing diversity and year round options, if crowded.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Wyoming, Montana, Dakotas
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